Planning for Life, Incapacity & Death

Make Planning Decisions now...

While each estate and family is unique, here are a few of the critical things everyone should create for their loved ones and some of the decisions to be made in advance:

1. Create and maintain an inventory of your Assets:

Whether you are just getting started or already own several valuable assets, it is crucial to be aware of what you own. You have a great opportunity to create an asset "cheat sheet." This information will help your decision-makers locate assets if you are incapacitated so these resources can be used to support you, your care, and any dependents. Then, when you die, knowledge of where and what assets you have will be critical to ensure they are passed along, preserved, and remembered. When assets are not accounted for, they can end up with the State's Department of Unclaimed Property. Every year, the State keeps various unclaimed assets and collects large sums of interest annually from these assets.  Therefore, when the rightful owners are unaware of the asset or how to claim it, the State government profits.

2. Take control over your medical and financial legal decisions and appoint Agents: 

Most people assume estate planning only comes into play when you die, but that is only partially true. Although planning for your death is a crucial part of estate planning, it's just as important—if not more so—to prepare for potential incapacity resulting from an accident or illness. If you become incapacitated and have no legal and medical decisions in place, your family would have to petition the court to appoint decision-makers. Families often conflict when more than one petitioner tries to assist in these roles. Deciding who your decision-maker(s) will be can alleviate or reduce any potential conflict.

3. Document who you want to inherit your assets and how to distribute what remains:

If you die without a plan, the State will decide who inherits your assets, regardless of your wishes. Property is distributed according to State intestate succession laws. These laws examine and account for your marital status, if you have children, and if not, which of your blood relatives live. Your assets will be distributed according to these relationships. Understanding how intestate distribution works and if you want to accept that process is essential. If you have a different distribution plan in mind, put that in your Will or Trust plan.

4. Nominate Guardians for Minor Children:

You can plan for your minor children by nominating other adults to help care for and potentially raise them should you become incapacitated or die. A judge must appoint temporary and permanent legal guardians whenever a minor's parent is deemed legally absent. Potential guardians file petitions to be appointed. The judge must determine who should be selected using a "best interest of the child" standard. Without your nomination to consider, your voice, feelings, and preferences will not be a part of appointing who will care for your children. Although the judge will do their best, the appointment could cause significant heartbreak for your children and the rest of your extended family. The most qualified caregivers are often selected based on their financial and lifestyle situation, even though those may not be the only qualities you want for the individual you would like to raise, influence, and care for your children. Documenting your choices and feelings about your qualified caregiver(s) allows you to be heard no matter the circumstances.